Skyline III – To the Notch

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After leaving the fantastic breakfast at the Lodge, we left for the days walk, which promised to be an all day affair. But first you’ll recall that one has to walk about 1500 feet uphill first thing. I’d liken this to being on a stairmaster for about an hour and a half. But thankfully the scenery is a so much better than being on a stairmaster.

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It’s a fairly quick rise out of the valley.

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Although every now and again it does seem the one will never stop rising!

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At last upon the ridgeline again, the trail can be seen easily summiting that next pass, which is known as the Notch.

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This easy summit is actually a fairly long walk uphill again. It never ceased to be fascinating.

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You very…

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…slowly…

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…pass…

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…the alpine lake…

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…and suddenly you’re much farther above it than you ever imagined you would be.

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And the trail is much steeper than you had ever imagined it might be. We were catching up a bit with Chuck and Laura at this point; I was actually the last one to leave camp (though the first to finish! But Im getting ahead of myself.) This section is very steep, with kind of jinky footing at times.

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It would be easy to fall off of the trail anywhere along here; it’s slippery, rocky, shifty…steep.

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Still, it’s not rocket science. An the view of the valley is amazing.

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Life is good up here. The wind had picked up and it was pretty chilly, which was so nice, especially remembering that back home it was probably 96 degrees in the shade with 85% humidity.

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Far away, in a different valley, you can see the Icefield Parkway.

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Splendid views…

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Life at the Notch. A great place to stop for a snack and catch up with your trail mates you haven’t seen since breakfast.

The Skyline Trail – II

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After walking over 11 miles, and reaching Big Shovel Pass, one starts looking for the Shovel Pass Lodge.

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There’s a rather daunting view of the trail as it passes up and over the next pass which is called the Notch. And it’s only daunting because at this point there’s really no telling where the Lodge is, or how to get there. And the thought of walking over the next pass is just … why I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

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Still, one goes on, of course.

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Fr. Jimmy insisted the Lodge was up, and next to the alpine lake before the Notch. I kept insisting it couldn’t be, because no one would build latrines above an alpine lake, they would build them in the woods.

As strange as my reasoning sounds at times, it’s at least sensible.

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The only problem, which I’ve mentioned here before, is that the woods were very far away, and a very long way downhill.

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Uphill?

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Or wayyy down to the valley?

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These cairns are all over the place, and marked the trail in several areas. We passed through and then walked uphill after everyone in our party (we had met a couple from California who were walking about the same pace as us,) agreed that the Lodge was uphill.

Everyone except me that is.

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And of course I was right! The Lodge is actually down around there.

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In fact, here it is now. And it was quite a welcome sight after the intense downhill trek on sore feet.

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Nestled in the woods at the base of the… incline,

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… it has a rugged comfort to it. And it sure the heck beat lugging a tent along the trail. Aren’t my feet attractive?

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We all settled in. The Californians and the Germans were fantastic company throughout the evening…

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And all watched a beautiful sunset from the front porch.

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After the intense downhill trek, and with the prospect of a huge climb the next morning, it took a great dinner to truly relax. And dinner did not disappoint!

Chuck and Laura, the couple in the front, astounded me in several ways. Chuck carried next to no water, along with a bottle of wine, and did just fine. Laura looked fantastic throughout the entire trek, never flagging, never a hair out of place.

Next to me is the guide of the German group, who’s from New Zealand and who set a brisk pace throughout the days. The German man in the back lives 5 minutes from France and invited me to visit him and his wife, sometime after I chatted briefly with him in my sparse French. The fascinating woman next to Fr. Jimmy is a German psychiatrist, and our little group held quite a fascination for her.

And actually, the bottle of ketchup and the coffee mugs are a sign that this is not a dinner picture at all, but in reality is a breakfast picture. Breakfast… it was wonderful too.

So I am getting ahead of myself in this little travelogue, even though I’m a month behind in posting this never ending story of hiking around the Canadian Rockies…

Evening came, then morning. The Second Day.

The Berg Lake Trail

The other day I hiked the Berg Lake Trail with my buddy Fr. Jimmy. Here are a few photos from the trail…

I had not relished the thought of doing this trail for quite a few reasons. Mainly, it’s a 12 mile hike with a serious altitude gain in the last half, and we were doing it after a brutally long day of travel.

That being said… I loved it. And I would do it again in a flash!

It starts innocuously enough, crossing placid lakes, walking along verdant, pleasantly inclined paths.

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It’s a cool weather rain forest, and after steeping in Louisiana heat all summer long, I felt like it was winter in a strange new land. A beautiful new land, too. Lower temperatures do that to us southerners.

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We passed a lot of truly beautiful photo-worthy scenery, however photo taking was not my priority on this once in a lifetime opportunity for amazing photography. I just wanted to get away and be in the outdoors and walk around and take it all in, and be amazed with the grandeur of God’s creation.

That’s also a really nice way of saying that I didn’t take many photos because I had my smaller camera with me, and things happened like the strap in the middle of the picture, or the dampness caused the lens cover to falter… a lot of pictures just did not come out.

But this one did! It’s a bridge I had seen on the internet and I wanted my very own picture of it. At this point you’ve walked about 6 miles, fairly standard ups and downs, and are now at the Whitehorn camp site, which is where we ended up spending the night.

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The glacial river runs by, providing a great water source and a relaxing sound to fall asleep to. There’s an open air shelter which has a wood burning stove in it, so that if it’s cold, damp weather no one will get hypothermic. Very thoughtful! Of course I don’t have photos of any of that… but that’s just me.

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It’s a beautiful place. We had rain, mist, clouds, and it was exquisitely beautiful.

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In the morning we walked around the bend and crossed the river, ready to make the huge ascent up to Lake Berg. The thought of hiking up the steep ascent had me running in extra cautious mode… but the scenery was beautiful and well worth the effort. And whats a hike in the mountains without some steep ascents?

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Here’s Fr. Jimmy, as we leave the level of the river and head steeply (steeply, steeply) uphill for the next several hours.

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After what seems like only a short forever, you’re on a ledge overlooking the river valley you crossed what seems like only that morning.

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The ledge is built to provide glimpses of the Falls of the Pool, (or Pool of the Falls? I’ve forgotten!) But the point is, the falls spill into a pool, then run out and head down over to the river to join in the rapids flowing past the campground and down out to the beginning of the trail. It’s all about the pool, here.

We met several people here. On the way down we chatted with a Spanish woman who was hiking up to Berg Lake with her elderly parents, in from Spain. They were evidently doing a 12 mile day hike, with a base camp set up at Whitehorn, which is a popular way to do the upper trail. Also on the way down a few days later, a marathon runner passed us up. He was running the entire trail in a day, up and down, in anticipation of a yearly marathon which is held on the trail.

All of these things gave me courage to just keep walking, man.

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A short eternity later, you and your backpack are up near the beautiful, famed Emporer Falls. Although this is well worth walking up to and taking a good look-see, it will also manage to get you soaked with spray if the wind is blowing in your direction. Hiker discretion is advised.

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And then you hike up a bit more, just long enough to get exasperated, and the entire path levels out. The Emporer Falls campsite looks beautiful to camp in. You walk on and on and eventually, catch your first sight of Berg Lake and it’s famed glacier, which groans and calves before your very eyes.

But more on that later.

A Day in the Park

I was out of town the other day walking along a small river, when suddenly I saw something I’ve never seen before. Thank goodness I had my cellphone camera.

It was a flock of geese bringing the kids out for a swim on the river!

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It was such an interesting site.   I followed them as I walked along.

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The goslings certainly enjoyed the swim. And the adult geese certainly kept a watchful eye.

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Finally the geese brought the little ones to shore. I watched from a small bridge to see where they would go.

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They were coming into the park!

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Yep, marching along like pros…

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They mingled with all the other geese that were there.

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And generally had a great time hanging out at the park. It was a great sight to see.

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